Kids count!

Published 12:18 am Saturday, October 18, 2008

Covington County ranks 35th in the state in child well being, according to statistics in the 2008 Kids Count Data Book.

The numbers are based on a scale containing six indicators of child well being – low weight births, births to unmarried teens, single parent families, children in poverty, vulnerable families and high school graduation rate.

Together, those indicators are considered to be the strongest indicators available for measuring child well being.

“The report evaluating the health, safety, education and economic security for children in Covington County is a great indicator for how local agencies and resources are working,” said Susan Short, director of the Covington County Children’s Policy Council. “When first looking at our overall state ranking of 35, it appears that we are average in most areas, but when one takes a closer look at our data and considers some of the 19 indicators, it is alarming to me.”

Statistics for the county include 45 births to unmarried teens, 1,482 single parent families and 2,160 children in poverty.

“Take for example, the total number of Covington County children who are in poverty is 2,160,” she said. “These statistics should concern all of us because poverty affects lives of children in all stages of their development.”

Short said the concept of early education and parental involvement are keys to a child’s well being.

“Every week, one can find another study that tells of the importance of early investment in our children and of its economic benefits to our economy,” she said. “It is either a pay now or pay later situation.”

Short said it was revealing to look at the county’s graduation rate and the first grade retention rate.

“What’s really interesting it to see how these indicators relate to success later in life,” she said. “As a county, we need to look and see if we are taking the correct steps to provide all children with early learning opportunities and consider the consequences if we don’t.”

Short said the area of teen pregnancy is related to other problems like poverty, income, lack of education and more.

“In Covington County, the number of births to unmarried teens, which was 45 in one year, is particularly troubling when one considers these young women often lack the ability to support their families economically,” she said. “The success or failure of learning and education begins early in life, and it is important that young mothers have child rearing skills. Will these children be ready for kindergarten?”

Comparatively, Crenshaw County ranked 36th; Escambia, 41st; Coffee, 15th; Houston, 32nd; Dale, 20th, and Geneva, 27th.

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